From the opening piano and handclaps of "So Glad I'm Here," it's clear that Ida vocalist Elizabeth Mitchell was poised to make a soothing yet playful children's album with You Are My Sunshine. Diving into her role as mother, having given birth to her first child with Ida's Dan Littleton in 2002, Mitchell's tender and graceful nature with this disc of children's songs was surely connected to her new role as mother. Having first sung classic folk songs to children as a nursery school teacher in New York City, Mitchell took her time with the follow-up to Ida's You Are My Flower, also released on Last Affair Records. You Are My Sunshine was recorded between September 2000 and September 2002 in four different locations. While the first concept of the children's album was recorded haphazardly in one afternoon, this disc was born out of careful planning. The first session was recorded with Warren Defever in Livonia, MI, when Mitchell was six weeks pregnant, and other sessions were planned around her pregnancy and resulting motherhood. Retaining the same loving energy as You Are My Flower, Mitchell and Littleton tackled gospel, rock, folk and even reggae dub sounds for the record.
The second track is classic kids' fare, the consistently peppy "Skip to My Lou," while "Hey Bo Diddley" is a slightly altered version of "I Want Candy," showcasing Mitchell's unique vision, rewriting select songs for the ears of children. A boy named Rafael Edwards is featured as the first vocalist on the fifth track, the fishing singalong "Crawdad." Littleton sings a duet with Mitchell over the slowed-down reggae beats of "Alphabet Dub," which features Fred Thomas of Saturday Looks Good to Me on drums. On "Car Car," Mitchell and Athena Miros offer up a tranquil version of Woody Guthrie's "Take Me Ridin' in the Car Car," which is followed by the soon-to-be preschool classic cover of Roy Orbison's "Ooby Dooby." The title track appears on track nine, and a cover of Cat Stevens' "Here Comes My Baby" appears on track 13, as Mitchell and Littleton sweetly croon over intricate guitar and modest piano. A soothing version of the classic "Three Is a Magic Number" from the School House Rock television series is next, yet again breathing new life into a classic children's song, adding education to the soothing musical tones. "Good Night Irene" is the last listed track, showcasing the crisp vocals by Mitchell that make Ida such a stellar and diverse indie act. An alternate version of "You Are My Sunshine" appears as the hidden 17th track. In the end, You Are My Sunshine serves as a carefully crafted musical soundtrack for 21st century families, making adults reminiscent of days gone by while introducing children to the power of music. Mastered by Steve Fallone at Sterling Sound Studio in New York, the disc was released in February 2003. ~ Stephen Cramer